At the end of October, the Chicago Cubs—one of two baseball teams based in the city—had not won a World Series championship in 108 years, since 1908.
The team, affectionately dubbed baseball’s lovable losers, had gotten close a couple of times. But something always went amiss, leaving players and Cubs fans completely dejected.
The story of the team’s long, often winding path to winning the World Series is the stuff baseball legends are made of; but in reality, the steps the team took to get there were more methodical than mythical.
Its history-making season was the result of careful planning and execution. In recent years, the Cubs’ management re-examined its goals and procedures, and enacted sweeping changes and bold decisions.
Like any fledgling business, the Cubs took a risk—and it ultimately paid off.
Your company may not ever find itself on the mound, facing fully loaded bases—physically, anyway—but metaphorically, chances are, you’ve been in that situation before when dealing with competitors, retention issues or other concerns.
In such instances, refer to the Cubs’ victory, which actually provides several examples that can be used to help you avoid defeat:
Put solid managers in place
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who came to the Chicago Cubs in 2011, had a proven track record: As the Boston Red Sox’s general manager, Epstein had helped guide the team to win its first World Series title in 86 years in 2004. They won it again in 2007.
We know from recent research that hiring good managers is important; a study of more than 350 mid-sized German manufacturers, conducted by the Institute for Employment Research, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the London School of Economics, found organizations with better management are consistently able to recruit and retain a superior workforce, offering stronger productivity. Make sure your teams are led by thoughtful, qualified and encouraging managers.
The Cubs have, over the course of several seasons, built the team’s current winning line-up, using often inventive techniques. For example, the Cubs, according to Time magazine, use neuroscouting, which gauges a hitter’s reaction time and hand-eye coordination to different pitches, to help analyze the player’s potential performance in high-pressure situations.
Like the Cubs, your organization may benefit from looking for candidates in nontraditional venues, such as passive recruiting-based campaigns that include social media and other tools. You may also find it helpful to use nontraditional interview techniques.
Provide a productive workspace
When the Ricketts family bought 95 percent ownership of the team in 2009 from the Tribune Co., the team’s facilities, according to Time magazine, were among the worst in the league, with leaking ceilings, construction trailer offices and no batting cage. Approximately $500 million was spent on Wrigley Field renovations. Seven years after the ownership change, the Cubs won the World Series.
Freshening up an outdated office can have a profound effect. Employees who are highly satisfied with various aspects of the workplace tend, for example, to demonstrate higher engagement levels, according to a report from office furniture provider Steelcase. Consider your current office layout and look, and consider making some alterations, if necessary.
Despite the Cubs’ 108-year World Series championship-free streak—including the 61-101 season just four years ago, in 2012, the Cubs’ worst since 1966 — thousands of followers remained devoted Cubs fans.
Employers may benefit from taking a similar approach to young and/or underperforming employees. As Cubs fans supported their team throughout the years, companies that nurture workers who need additional guidance, training or in some instances, time to just get comfortable in their position may eventually see their efforts pay off.
The reaction to the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win showed us one other thing: It’s important to celebrate your success.
When an estimated 5 million people, according to the Chicago Tribune, turned out for the city’s Cubs rally, held two days after the last World Series game, it was clear that, even in the wake of the momentous Cubs’ victory, a morale boost was more than welcome.
Companies may not roll buses full of employees through streets lined with cheering Cubs fans, or dye their local river blue, as Chicago did; however, they can reap the benefits of acknowledging a job well done in other ways. Creating an employee recognition program and improving your employee value proposition can be a good place to start.